When it comes to a child’s education, there is often talk of the importance of parental involvement or engagement. While the terms may seem interchangeable, there are actually important differences between the two concepts.
Parental involvement refers to actions or activities that parents do to support their child’s learning, such as attending parent-teacher conferences or volunteering at school events. It is often seen as a more passive role, where parents are involved in their child’s education but may not be actively seeking to improve it beyond these traditional activities.
Parental engagement, on the other hand, goes beyond involvement to include activities that are more proactive and collaborative with educators. This could include participating in school decision-making committees, advocating for school improvement initiatives, or co-planning curriculum and instruction with teachers. Parent engagement is seen as a more active and ongoing partnership between parents and educators to promote student success.
Why Engagement Matters
Although parent involvement garners support from parents and goals are often met, it does not impact student success in the same manner as parent engagement. According to research, in instances where parent engagement is the emphasis, student achievement is greater. “Family engagement can produce even better results—for students, for families, for schools, and for their communities” (Ferlazzo & Hammond, 2009). When parent engagement is the focus, parents are in partnership with the school. In these parent-school partnerships, parents are welcomed, heard, and serve an integral role in the decision-making process. When the relationship between schools and families are fostered in this way, the benefits are indeed impactful. “The right kinds of school-family connections…can produce multiple benefits for students, including higher grade point averages and test scores, better attendance, enrollment in more challenging courses, better social skills, and improved behavior at home and at school (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002).
While both parent involvement and engagement are important in promoting student success, research suggests that parental engagement can have a greater impact on student outcomes. This is because engagement involves a deeper level of partnership and collaboration between parents and educators, which can lead to more tailored and effective support for students. Additionally, by involving parents more directly in school decision-making and planning, engagement can also help to build stronger school communities and improve overall school quality.